HOME - CHARLES' BEDROOM
Charles Callison's voice announced his presence to his wife and her body tensed
up and the sound of him. "W-what were you talking about?"
"Oh, I was just...I was
just getting some things I left behind and I ran across some old
pictures." She kept her back to him as she quickly dried her eyes and
swallowed her nervousness. Had he heard her professions of love?
Did he realize how much she still wanted him?
"That's not all of
it." He walked up behind her and gently put his hand on her
shoulder. "I heard you. I heard what you..."
didn't hear anything," she laughed nervously as she tried to hide her true
feelings. "Well, anything other than the ramblings of an old fool
caught up in memories of the past. Look at this picture." She
pulled out a photograph of Maggie's first birthday party. "Remember
that? That poor girl had frosting from ear to ear!"
"Yes, I remember her
landing face first in the middle of the cake." He chuckled as the
warmth of the memory flooded over him. They'd had so many happy times
together. It had been a house filled with so much love.
"And then here's one of
Trevor on his first bicycle!" Francis sighed wistfully as she looked
at the picture of the little boy that was now her grown son. "I must
have kissed a thousand boo-boos that summer." She looked up at him
and noticed the deep lines of worry and stress on his face.
"Charles, are you alright? You seem like something's troubling
died," he muttered as he sat down on the bed next to her.
"It...it all happened rather suddenly. I guess all of this squabbling
over his contract was for nothing. I can't help but feel that all of this
stress contributed in some way to his death."
"Charles, you can't think
like that!" Francis covered his hand with hers and gave it a
reassuring squeeze. "Mr. Preston's health was something you had no
way of knowing. You couldn't have done anything differently."
He nodded silently at the
logic of her statement. He couldn't have acted differently. He'd
treated Thornton just like he would have treated any other troublesome
author. Suddenly, his mind returned to thoughts of the scene he'd
witnessed as he'd stood in the doorway.
"Francis, before I came
in...before you knew I was here....I heard you talking." He hesitated
for a moment, unsure as to what to say next. "W-would you really
forgive me for what I've done with Annabelle?"
"Do we have to get into a
discussion about her?" She quickly pulled her hand away, shot up
from the bed, and moved across the room to stare out of the window onto the
street below. "Why must every conversation we have revolve around
"Because Annabelle Lake
is a part of our lives, now." He kept his eyes on Francis and
carefully watched her every movement and gesture.
"Trust me. I
haven't forgotten that!"
Charles' voice trailed off as a million thoughts collided inside his head.
There, in that moment, it almost seemed like time had stood still. The
events of the last six months had never happened. He'd never betrayed his
wife with another woman and she'd never left him and their home. Before
speaking again, he took a deep breath. "Francis, do you still love
"Oh, Charles, how could I
not love you?" She turned around to face him as her eyes began to
mist over with tears. "After all these years...after all that we've
shared together...how could I not still love you?"
He paused. "Could you forgive me for what's happened with
Annabelle? Could you forgive me for betraying you with another
Annabelle Lake. The name
rung like a death toll in Francis' ears as visions of her laughing, wicked face
flashed in her mind. Charles had broken their vows and betrayed her with
the most wicked of women. As that thought struck her, Francis' teeth
clinched and her muscles tensed. "I don't think I could ever forget
all of the pain you've caused me."
"But could you forgive
looked away from him. Oh, how she wanted to forgive him. She wanted
to rush into his arms and cover his face with kisses. She wanted to...but
she couldn't. "No, Charles. I don't think I could ever forgive
what you've done to me!"
"B-but I'm sorry..."
Slowly, she began to grow angry. "Sorry? Sorry for bringing
that awful woman into our home? Sorry for making me the laughing stock of
all of Albanyville? Sorry for making me the constant topic of gossip and ridicule?"
"No! How dare you
beg me to give you absolution when all you seem intent on doing is running
around with that tramp and making a mockery of me! You deliberately try to
hurt and humiliate me! How in god's name am I supposed to forgive that?"
"Now, wait a
second!" Charles bolted from the bed as his blood pressure began to
rise. "How dare you play the martyr in all of this! Saint
Francis can do no wrong! Saint Francis is perfect and she alone can pass judgment!
Annabelle has nothing to do with the problems between us. How dare you
talk about her as if she were common gutter trash."
"I call a spade a
spade." Her lips tightened into a thin line as she glared at
him. "That witch needs to fly off on her broomstick and never be
heard from again!"
"I don't ever want to
hear you talk about Annabelle that way again!"
Charles," she shouted as she pushed past him and headed for the door,
"if I have things my way, you'll never have to hear another word out of